A business culture sounds abstract, but Jane Grote Abell lists concrete ways to improve it.


By Jane Grote Abell

What's the number one reason people continue to work for their employer? Is it the pay? The benefits? Or maybe a lack of better options?

The American Psychological Association recently released a Workplace Retention Survey. According to their findings, the top reasons Americans gave for not leaving their current job were "I enjoy the work I do," and it "fits well with the other areas of my life." This is further validation that employees want to feel connected to their company, and want to know that their employer is invested in them as well. As business leaders, we should be offering more than just a job, it's important to establish a strong workplace culture.

By definition, workplace culture is the collection of business practices, processes and interactions that make up the work environment. When business founders and leaders value certain things and behave in a certain way, this helps to establish the company culture.

Never was this more apparent then when Donatos Pizza was purchased by McDonald's back in 1999. One day Donatos was a family-owned pizza company, and the next it was run by one of the world's largest fast food chains. Seemingly overnight business was changing, and a well-established culture was at risk.

In order to maintain a strong culture, Donatos had to have a process. The right culture doesn't just happen; you have to make it a priority. A process can sound restricting as it relates to people, but there are some important systems that have to be in place to keep the spirit alive:

Hire the "right" people, those whose values fit, using tools that measure values. Measure results by setting goals through a performance management system. Succession planning should be based on principles and results and reviewed at every level in the organization. Compassionate accountability with a feedback process. Training people is different than development, and you have to do both for the person to fully develop into the best skilled leader.

Company ownership may change hands, menu items will come and go, but people will always be one of a company's greatest assets. Don't ever take your culture for granted. It requires constant attention to detail, which is time well spent on the most important asset in your family business.

A founding family member of Donatos Pizza, Jane Grote Abell currently holds the title of Chairwoman of the Board. Over the last four decades, Jane has held a variety of positions at both Donatos Pizza and Jane's Dough Foods, Donatos' food service commissary operations, including President & CEO.

Jane Grote Abell will speak on business culture at a Conway Center for Family Business event at Ohio Dominican University on Thursday, Sept. 17. Visit familybusinesscenter.com for more information.